Mental Health By The Numbers

For decades mental health was only talked about behind closed doors.  To admit that you were living with depression or anxiety was considered shameful or a sign of personal weakness.  Thankfully we know better and are starting to do better. We now recognize that mental health is no different from physical health as the brain can be affected by illness just like any other part of the body.

Though some people may be more susceptible than others due to genetic or environmental factors, we are all at risk of facing a mental health concern at some point in our lives. Understanding just how common mental health issues are is an important step towards de-stigmatizing them and treating them quickly and appropriately. Let’s take a look at mental health in Canada by the numbers:

  • 1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental illness in any given year.
  • 1 in 2 Canadians have, or have had, a mental illness before the age of 40.
  • 4,000 Canadians die by suicide each year, an average of almost 11 per day.
  • 500,000 employed Canadians are unable to work in any given week, due to mental health issues.
  • The estimated economic burden of mental illness in Canada is 51 billion dollars per year.

Mental health issues can affect anyone, at any age, but studies show that students and youth may be particularly vulnerable. Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group. The statistics surrounding youth mental health are alarming.

  • 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence.
  • 34% of Ontario high school students indicate a moderate-to-serious level of psychological distress.
  • 14% of Ontario high school students indicate a serious level of psychological distress.
  • After accidents, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-24.
  • In 2016, suicide accounted for 19% of deaths among youth aged 10 to 14, 29% among youth aged 15 to 19, and 23% among young adults aged 20-24.


Canadian colleges and universities have long recognized the risk to their student populations, and have been quick to adapt their healthcare strategies and dedicate additional resources. Still, the demand for support services continues to outpace most schools’ capacity to help. Data compiled by the Globe and Mail in a recent article shows a troubling spike:

  • At the University of Toronto, the student population increased 8% from 2012 to 2017 and on-campus counselling appointments rose 40% in the same time period.
  • The number of counselling appointments at the University of British Columbia have increased 89% since 2010/11.
  • Queen’s University figures show a 73% increase in mental health appointments over the past five years.
  • McMaster University saw a 40% increase in counselling appointments last year, compared to the 2012/13 school year.

At taking care of students is our business and our mission. That’s why we launched keep.meSAFE, a student mental health support program designed to complement and extend existing, and often stretched, on-campus resources by connecting students with culturally and linguistically matched counsellors, when they need it most, 24/7, 365 days a year.

To learn more about student mental health and the keep.meSAFE program please contact Christine Wach, Director, Strategic Partnerships, at

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